Speed School Professor Dan Popa Co-leader on $24 Million Partnership to Advance Next-Gen Manufacturing Tech

Dan Popa with one of his robots

Dan Popa with one of his robots

University of Louisville Speed School Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Dan Popa is co-leading a partnership effort of seven Kentucky universities and institutions to support the fundamental science needed to advance next generation manufacturing technologies, flexible electronics and robotics.

The Kentucky National Science Foundation’s (NSF) EPSCoR, or Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, awarded a five-year, $24 million grant, titled the Kentucky Advanced Partnership for Enhanced Robotics and Structures (or KAMPERS). The effort will harness the collective research power of 40 multidisciplinary researchers from universities across the state. A video explaining the KAMPERS project can be found here.

UofL’s portion of the grant is $5.3 million. Fifteen UofL faculty and 15 to 20 students and staff will work on the project, according to Popa. He says the collaboration could also pave the way for a proposed new robotics institute at UofL in 2020.
“As we introduce more robots in the manufacturing environment, they have to be more intelligent and they have to be chaperoned and taught by the workers —in a way that doesn’t take jobs but creates more opportunities,” Popa said. “I think the frontier is to push into more and more applications for medium to small companies that can use this technology. This will do a lot for robotics in Kentucky and give us a nationally visible research presence.”

Co-investigators of research include Popa and UK professors Seth DeBolt and John Anthony. Popa and his team are working in all three research areas – materials, device configuration and systems, with a special emphasis on collaborative robotics.

The research results will have applications in the construction of components for robotic and autonomous systems in areas as diverse as elder care, home service, health care, education and other collaborative human-robot interactions.

The grant also aims to increase underrepresented minorities in these fields, including African Americans, Hispanics and women.